The Government has responded to the consultation on the future of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA), saying that it will not transfer the HFEA and HTA’s functions at this time, but is launching a review into how they can work together and with other regulators more effectively and consider options for a future merger. The review will report in April.
In June 2012, the Department of Health consulted on three proposed options for the future of the HFEA and HTA:
- All functions should transfer to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) except the HFEA functions relating to research that would pass to the Health Research Authority (HRA); and the HFEA and HTA be abolished.
- All functions should transfer, as set out above, but a limited number of functions that would transfer to organisations other than the CQC.
- The HFEA and HTA should retain their functions but deliver further savings.
What have the Government said in response to the consultation’s findings?
According to the Government’s statement, the majority of respondents (75%) disagreed with the proposal to transfer the functions of the HFEA and the HTA to the CQC and HRA. The statement added:
Almost half of respondents also said that the HFEA and the HTA should be retained as they believe that the CQC is not well placed currently to take on the functions, and HTA and HFEA functions would be subsumed by CQC’s other responsibilities. It was felt that the consequence of this would be a loss of public confidence, a decrease in the quality of regulation and disruption to business.
Whilst there was significant support for retaining the bodies and achieving further efficiencies, around a quarter of respondents also gave a clear message of the need for a review of the way the bodies undertake their functions.
So the Government has decided that it will not transfer the functions of the HFEA and HTA but will review how they are working together with “a view to reducing regulatory burden” and with “serious consideration to the merger” of the two bodies. They will both also be expected to make further efficiency savings. The review, to be led by Justin McCracken, the chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, will report in April. You can read its terms of reference here.
An independent review is welcome. Responses to the original consultation (including AMRC’s) will be taken into account in the review but organisations are free to feed in further information. We will be following the review’s progress and feeding in where appropriate.
It is important that whatever is decided, we have regulation that researchers and the public can have confidence in. Regulatory processes and decisions should be transparent, and regulators should ensure that the application process is clear for researchers to navigate, developing a “one-stop-shop” to reduce duplication and delays, so we can maintain high standards of regulation while avoiding unnecessary delays and hurdles to research.